Avon and Somerset police has revealed that more than half its traditional police stations are to close over the next five years.
Some officers and staff will be "co-located" in council offices or other buildings, while some will operate from different police stations. Some new stations and "bases" will be built but in Somerset they are unlikely to be on the scale of tower blocks like Yeovil police station, which was built less than 40 years ago, and is one of those due to close.
The force says the move to three new police and custody centres being built at Bridgwater, Patchway and Keynsham has given Avon and Somerset Constabulary a unique opportunity to take a long, hard look at its estate. It wants to reduce its buildings portfolio – including workshops and administrative accommodation – by at least 36 per cent by 2019, to support the further savings it expects to have to find.
The new centres mean that some existing stations will be under-occupied, while some are outdated, expensive to maintain, or in the wrong place. As councils and other organisations rationalise their own use of buildings, it has seemed a good time to consider sharing space.
Avon and Somerset Police and Crime Commissioner Sue Mountstevens said she wanted to reassure the public that the change in accommodation would not affect policing. But while accepting the majority of changes for West Somerset, local MP Ian Liddell-Grainger expressed "grave concerns" that Williton would be left without a police station if plans went ahead for it to close and for officers to operate from Minehead more than eight miles away.
The Minehead station itself is to close and co-locate nearby with an enquiry office and police team.
Mr Liddell-Grainger said: "Obviously I have been discussing these changes with the chief constable and senior police officers and they want to maintain the service across the area. We accept that the Williton station is not a brilliant building but there are buildings where they could co-locate and I am arranging to meet with the chief constable to talk through some of these ideas."
Ms Mountstevens said: "As we get ready to move into these three state-of-the-art new police centres I want to be clear with local people about our future estate plans.
"I do not want residents to feel that the police are withdrawing from their area or street. Far from it. Our plans are about reducing the amount of oversized and under-utilised buildings we own and providing the best possible access for our communities.
"In the traditional sense, police stations as you know them now will change. Soon you are much more likely to see your local police team located with other 'blue light' services such as fire and ambulance or with your local council. This means that the police will be where you need them most, in the heart of your community.
"This is an exciting time for local policing and reinforces our commitment to serving our communities while being more efficient and cost effective with our buildings."
Where medium-sized police buildings are no longer needed, they will be sold.
The new custody centres are being built as private finance initiatives under which the buildings are the property of the developer, Blue Light Partnership, for the first 25 years and the force pays for them by a unitary charge. In return they get a building to meet future needs, along with maintenance and various other services. At the end of the 25-year PFI contract the buildings are handed over to the force which receives the building "as new."
Director of finance Julian Kern said: "The opening of the new police centres has presented us with a valuable opportunity to look at our police estate. We have identified where we are and where we should be to best serve our communities and support our operational officers."
The Proposed changes
Bristol district police stations Avonmouth: to close and co-locate to a new station in Southmead with beat surgeries nearby. Timescale: 2016-2017; Bishopsworth: to close and move to Broadbury Road Looking for space for regular beat surgeries such as library or community space. 2016-2017; Brislington: To close and move to Broadbury Road . 2015-2016. Broadbury Road: keep open and refurbish; Southmead: close and move to a new station nearby. 2016-2017; Trinity Road: To close and move to smaller location – 2015-2016.
North Eastern District Keynsham Police Centre, new summer 2014. Patchway Police Centre, new summer 2014; Police stations: Bath to close and co-locate with Bath and North East Somerset Council on Manvers Street 2017-2018; Filton closed and move to new Patchway Police Centre; Keynsham: to close and co-locate with BANES in town hall Spring 2015; Radstock: to close and move to nearby facility 2016-2017; Staple Hill Police Office: main station will close once custody moves to Patchway Centre. Retained section will house a new local policing office.
Somerset District Bridgwater: new Police Centre opens summer 2014. Police stations: Bridgwater: to close and move to new Police Centre and a co-located station in town centre Autumn 2014; Burnham-on-Sea: to close and new station open nearby 2014-2015; Chard: to close and move to smaller base 2016-2017; Cheddar: to close and move to a smaller base 2016-2017; Clevedon: Keep open as co-location with North Somerset Council; Crewkerne: To close and open new local policing base 2017-2018; Frome: to close and move to a nearby temporary location before a new response hub is built on the existing site. Station closes May 2014 new hub opens 2015-2016; Minehead: to close and co-locate 2016-2017. Nailsea: to close and new station to open nearby. 2015-2016; Somerton: to close and new base to open 2017-2018; Street: To close and new station to open nearby. Custody moves to Bridgwater. 2017-2018; Taunton: To close custody to move to Bridgwater Police Centre. New local police station to open in Taunton with enquiry office, local policing and response unit co-located with council. 2015-2016; Weston-Super-Mare: to close and new response hub to open on outskirts. Co-located police base at town hall. 2016-2017. Williton: to close and co-locate with Minehead. 2016-2017; Yeovil: to close and new local policing base to open. 2016-2017.
Police offices Dulverton: To close and open but a new office will open housing the local policing team. 2016-2017; Ilminster: To close and co-locate nearby. Autumn 2015; Shepton Mallet: to close and relocate in County Hall 2015-2016. A new police office will be co-located with Mendip Council to house the local policing team. Watchet Police Office Keep shop front open summer only.